Mixed or average reviews - based on 34 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 18 out of 34
  2. Negative: 0 out of 34

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Critic Reviews

  1. It's an exciting action spectacle and a thoughtful, cumulatively moving family drama.
  2. Reviewed by: Gene Newman
    The perfect antidote to the post-holiday blues. It's exciting, well-acted, touching, and genuine.
  3. It's a heroic story, and Zwick frames it rather too strenuously as an antidote to the generic Holocaust stories of Jewish passivity and martyrdom. And yet, as a piece of historical redress, a great service has been done in bringing this narrative to the screen.
  4. 75
    The battle scenes are well choreographed and contain enough uncertainty to make them genuinely exciting, but one would expect no less from a man who has overseen Civil War engagements (Glory) and Japanese strife (The Last Samurai).
  5. Here, Jews are not victims of genocide, but victors in the organized resistance against it.
  6. 75
    Remarkable, unheralded story.
  7. 75
    The film isn't much of a character study; too many of its secondary characters are stereotypes, and it never fully engages our emotions the way "Schindler's List" or "The Pianist" did.
  8. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    Defiance says that it took grit, desperation and courage under fire to say, "Not this time," and fire back. Beyond that, it's a pretty good movie -- a bold, uneasy mix of romance, political debate and vigorous action.
  9. 70
    Defiance, as it turns out, makes insistent emotional demands, and those who respond to it at all, as I did, are likely to go all the way and even come out of it feeling slightly stunned.
  10. 70
    It's impossible to watch Defiance without experiencing a vicarious thrill of resistance and revenge.
  11. Zwick offers excitingly staged moments, but once you get past the novelty of WWII Jews acting this heroically macho, Defiance bogs down in a not very well-developed script.
  12. Zwick may be the definition of a modern blockbuster filmmaker, but he's also spent his entire career struggling to find the balance between opposing impulses – the sentimentalist's desire for emotional-historical heft and the artist's fascination with conflicted humanity – a struggle that's all over Defiance.
  13. A Holocaust film that's light on sentimentality but high on human drama, Defiance tells one of those remarkable survival stories that's so incredible it must be true.
  14. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    The tale of the resistance movement in Belorussia is undeniably inspiring and ideally suited for a cinematic rendering. But Defiance resists bold, passionate storytelling and delivers something rather conventional.
  15. 63
    This promising premise is turned into basically an overgrown TV movie.
  16. 63
    The best performance, because it's more nuanced, is by Liev Schreiber. His Zus Bielski is more concerned with the big picture, more ideological, more driven by tactics.
  17. 63
    For all the film's flaws, this is a war story told with passion about a band of brothers that still has the power to inspire.
  18. The film should've aimed higher, given all that these people endured to have their story told.
User Score

Mixed or average reviews- based on 157 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 31 out of 51
  2. Negative: 8 out of 51
  1. Sep 27, 2011
    I don't understand the decent reviews. Daniel Craig gives his best in "Defiance", as well as Edward Zwick. He realistically potrays the horrorI don't understand the decent reviews. Daniel Craig gives his best in "Defiance", as well as Edward Zwick. He realistically potrays the horror and advesities the jews had to suffer. Despite the tedious pace, "Defiance" is still a great movie you will want to watch. Full Review »
  2. May 3, 2016
    Perhaps it is unfair to review a film I did not finish, but I found Defiance boring and therefore decided to watch something else(it wasPerhaps it is unfair to review a film I did not finish, but I found Defiance boring and therefore decided to watch something else(it was Snatch). I don't mean that there wasn't enough action. A movie can have no action at all and still be entertaining. This movie felt like the actors from Fiddler on the Roof decided to take up arms against the jerman zwine*. Throw in some stereotypical Jews that need to be kept safe into the mix and there you have your group of survivors hiding out in the woods. I just couldn't really care for them as the characters I found hard to connect with.
    And then their weird accents.
    My observation is this: you don't need to give foreigners weird English accents when the movie is about them and they all speak the same language and the scene is set in their country. So don't do any accents when everyone you see is French speaking among their French fellows in a movie set in France. You can just have them speak proper English.

    I give it a five because I didn't see the whole movie. From what I did see I would give it a 2 if the part of the movie that I missed is as dull as the part that I saw.

    *Afterthought: that would actually be interesting when I think of it.
    Full Review »
  3. Apr 4, 2016
    A Society in the Forest, Banding Together to Escape Persecution.

    Around the midpoint of “Defiance,” Tuvia Bielski (Daniel Craig) sits
    A Society in the Forest, Banding Together to Escape Persecution.

    Around the midpoint of “Defiance,” Tuvia Bielski (Daniel Craig) sits astride his horse, welcoming new arrivals to his encampment in the Belarussian forest. It is late in 1941, and the newcomers, like the other people in this makeshift settlement, are Jews from surrounding towns and villages who have fled the savagery of the German Army and its local collaborators. Tuvia addresses these terrified survivors in a calm, authoritative voice, assuring them that here, under his protection, they will be free and safe. A little boy looks up in amazement at this heroic figure and asks his mother, “Is he a Jew?”

    “Jews don’t fight,” a Russian officer remarks when he meets Tuvia and his younger, angrier brother Zus (Liev Schreiber). “These Jews do” is the response, and also the gist of Edward Zwick’s stiff, musclebound new movie. Based on a book by Nechama Tec, “Defiance” tells the true and astonishing story of the Bielski partisans, who fought the Nazis and rescued hundreds of Jews through the darkest years of war and genocide.

    Tuvia and Zus — along with two other brothers, Asael (Jamie Bell) and Aron (George MacKay), who is still a child — meet up in the forest after their parents have been murdered by local authorities working in league with the German invaders. The Bielski boys are rough characters — a history of smuggling and petty criminality is hinted at — who can hold their vodka and know how to shoot, how to steal and how to navigate the dense and trackless forests.

    In contrast, many of the people they rescue are what Zus calls malbushim, the Hebrew word for clothes, which he uses to describe people he thinks are worthless. And this film’s characters more or less are what they wear. Tuvia cuts a dashing figure in his brown leather jacket. An older schoolteacher (Allan Corduner) with a fedora, a fine scarf and a nicely trimmed beard arrives coughing and quoting Talmud.

    Another malbesh, Isaac (Mark Feuerstein), with round glasses and a nebbishy vest, can barely use a hammer. “What is it you do?” Zus asks. “I suppose you could say I was — I am — an intellectual,” Isaac stammers. Zus cannot hide his amusement, or his contempt: “This is a job?”

    Well, not really, but it’s always useful, at least in a movie like this one, to have someone around to say things like “At least Descartes recognized the subjective nature of existence” or “If my friends at The Socialist Review could see me now!” And in the society that Tuvia builds in the forest (after Zus, more a fighter than an organizer, joins up with a Red Army brigade), intellectuals do have a role.

    In addition to comic relief, Isaac and the schoolteacher provide a measure of ethical guidance and political counsel. Or at least they seem to. “You have ideas about community?” Tuvia asks Isaac, and later, when Tuvia, on horseback, utters the word “community,” Isaac smiles.

    Mr. Zwick, whose other movies include “Glory,” “The Siege” and “Blood Diamond,” is many things, but subtle is not one of them. (Remember that horse in the first paragraph? Did I mention that it was white?) He wields his camera with a heavy hand, punctuating nearly every scene with emphatic nods, smiles or grimaces as the occasion requires. His pen is, if anything, blunter still, with dialogue that crashes down on the big themes like a blacksmith’s hammer.

    And the performances he wrings from his cast would not be out of place in an old Second Avenue Yiddish melodrama or a modern Egyptian soap opera. Just as the intellectuals are on hand to argue and fret, so are the women called upon to gaze at the Bielskis with wide, melting eyes. Three of them (Alexa Davalos, Iben Hjejle and Mia Wasikowska) will be chosen as “forest wives” by Tuvia, Zus and Asael. “You saved my life,” says Lilka (Ms. Davalos) to Tuvia as they lie together, wrapped in furs and illuminated by golden sunlight. “No. You saved mine,” he says.

    But while Mr. Zwick is frequently clumsy, he is not dumb. You might even say that he is an intellectual, since “Defiance” is animated as much by an idea as by rousing, emphatic emotions. It is most interesting, and most persuasive, not as a chronicle of heroic action but rather as a series of arguments — mainly between the patient Tuvia and the hot-headed Zus — about justice, righteousness and how a decent society should function. Zus is a man of action, Tuvia a man of principle, but in good dialectical fashion each one cedes some ground to the other — Tuvia by condoning and committing necessary acts of violence, Zus by saying something nice every once in a while.

    Their story is surely worth dramatizing — and may indeed be well served by this director’s square-jawed narrative style — but Mr. Zwick is not simply adding a chapter to the cinematic annals of the Holocaust. It’s not exactly false, but it’s more than a little inauthentic.
    Full Review »